Home to over 7,500 islands, the Philippines is home to rich flora and fauna. There are things in the country that have yet to be discovered, just like specialty greens, veggies and fruits.
Since we’re somehow stuck in the Metro, it’s amazing to see exquisite harvests in the most unusual places. We came across some recently and we’re so excited to show you seven awesome finds.
During the sidelines of Madrid Fusion Manila on April 8, 2016, one of the trade exhibits located at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City caught our eye. Who wouldn’t be curious to see cucumbers smaller than the human thumb; black-purple corn and tomatoes that look like pears?
There we met Nicolo Aberasturi of DowntoEarth, a family farm in Bukidnon which grows biodynamic vegetables and raises native and indigenous breeds of animals. Aberasturi was kind enough to address loads of questions about the interesting bundle of edible flowers, herbs and vegetables at the mini booth.
The products looked weird, especially to the eyes of a millennial who has seen such vegetation for the first time, but the good news is that these aren’t genetically modified and are certainly free from synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides.
Here are seven varieties of organic, biodynamic and fantastic things that are uniquely DowntoEarth:
1. Local mesclun
Mesclun, a mix of assorted green leaves, originally came from France but we also have local growth of these leafy goodness. Don’t judge a leaf by its color, though! Every type has a specific taste – some are minty, some are bitter in taste, and you just won’t know what you’ll get.
“Some of them don’t have a lot of flavor but they look very nice,” explained Aberasturi.
We were able to try gotu kola which has a slightly bitter taste that turns sweet and sort of minty. It changes!
2. Edible flowers
This bundle is very pleasing to the eyes. The flowers can also be eaten. Check out the Blue Ternate, Pigeon Pea, Spilantis, Chives, Fennel, and Rocket. A lot of these have medicinal purposes, but for now, they’re used in a lot of meals and drinks.
Here’s a fun fact: Blue Tarnate was grown by DowntoEarth originally for people who are into yoga.
“They needed a combination of colors to complete their chakra and they couldn’t find a good blue-colored food here so they suggested that [we grow the Blue Tarnate] and we started growing it for them,” Aberasturi shared. “Then, the restaurants found it, they found out that they can even use it to color food so they’re now using it more as a condiment or as a way to color drinks, such as cocktails.”
3. Watermelon radish
It’s more of a radish than a watermelon, FYI. This type of radish is also known as Rooseheart or Red Meat. It’s an heirloom radish grown by open pollination.
4. Small carrots
“Carrots used to be purple,” said the DowntoEarth president. “Many years ago, they decided to make it bigger so they cross-bred it and came up with an orange color.”
Now, we all know. But there are also carrots in different shades – white, yellow, black/purple. The original ones are purple in color and they are really small compared with the carrots usually we see in the market.
5. Heirloom tomatoes
These look like tomatoes, taste like tomatoes, are colored like normal tomatoes but have different shapes and sizes. We were able to try a teardrop tomato. It’s tastes so good and cute to look at, we can munch a whole basket!
6. Tapul Purple Corn
Purple corn, according to DowntoEarth, used to be grown in many areas in the Philippines, especially in the Visayas. It was brought to the country by the Spanish from South America during the Galleon Trade.
Fun fact: Tapul means purple in the Visayan dialect and was known to have been initially grown in Talisay, Cebu.
More fun fact: Purple corn is said to be better than the yellow variety. This is because tapul contains anthocyanin – the red pigment you find in plants.
“Of all those on record, [tapul] has the highest anthocyanin content. This is like double the content of goji berries,” Aberasturi said. “In Peru, they only grow this to make chicha or corn beer.”
7. Baby Cucumbers
Last but not the least, we were shown the indigenous gherkins, also known as mini or micro cucumbers. These little cucumbers only grow a littler over three inches. The leaves that cover the tiny finds are big, so that the baby cucumbers are hidden from the eyes of the public.
The sad part is that these baby cucumbers wither away when the rainy season comes.
These are just seven of the heirloom vegetable varieties that are grown in the foothills of Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon. More flavors, shapes, and colors are available at DowntoEarth for plating purposes and condiment use.